A 30-year-old computer is used to power an entire school district in Michigan


Don’t be quick to assume that old technology breaks down easily. A 30-year-old Commodore Amiga computer controls the air conditioning and heat for 19 public schools in Michigan, and it’s been running day and night since the 1980s.

The computer was new when the Grand Rapids Public Schools first got it in 1985, and maintenance supervisor Tim Hopkins told WOOD-TV that it replaced a computer “about the size of the refrigerator.” He says the Commodore is on its second mouse and third monitor.

The system runs on a radio frequency that sends a signal to the school buildings, but unfortunately that frequency is the same one that some of the maintenance department walkie-talkies use. If there is interference, they have to clear the radio, Hopkins says. So the system isn’t perfect. But it works.

Why can’t they just replace it? They would have to install an entirely new system, which would run the school district between $US1.5 and $US2 million. But it might be replaced in November, when a $US175 million bond proposal comes up to voters.

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